Cory Doctorow Interviewed by Steve Paikin

by Tom Tenney on July 12, 2013

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Earlier this week, novelist and copyright activist Cory Doctorow was interviewed on the Canadian TV show The Agenda about Aaron Swartz, hacktivism, piracy and copyright.  The whole interview is worth watching (this is part 2, part 1 can be seen here) but Doctorow’s inspired elocution on art, literature, freedom and sharing (appx 20:30-23:30) was worth transcribing, and is copied below for those who don’t wish to watch the whole video.

SP: Some people have portrayed [the public discourse over SOPA] as “Artists vs. Pirates.”  Do you like that characterization of this?

CD: No, I don’t think so.  Well first of all, I’ve never met an artist that didn’t have a huge library of things that they’d copied.  I mean, to be an artist is to copy everything…  You remember Lily Allen spoke out against music downloading, and then it emerged that she had on her website mix-tapes she’d made for people to download, for the public to download, where she hadn’t cleared the copyrights.  Why did she have that music available?  Because the way that you become a musician is by using other people’s music.  I mean, think about it. Musicians commercially perform each other’s compositions; they learn on each other’s compositions, they duplicate each other’s compositions.  It is the norm in music.  Brahms’s First was called Beethoven’s Tenth, right? Every jazz solo you’ve ever heard includes two or three bars of a song that is familiar to you, and we all say that that’s right and proper.  But as soon as you use a computer to sample one note, you’ve got a court coming after you…  When the people who wrote the law that is to their advantage now did it in the last century, that was legitimate taking. When you do it with the art that they made, that’s stealing.   And I think that it’s wrong.  I mean, we all take in order to make art; there is no art that is made out of the holus bolus.  And every person who makes art thinks that the part that they made is a precious snowflake, and that the stuff that they borrowed is mere plumbing.  And that’s true.  But the thing that someone makes out of my work will treat my precious snowflake as mere plumbing.  When Edgar Allen Poe invented the detective story, that was a precious snowflake.  But it would be insane to say that everyone who wrote a detective story should be paying royalties to Poe’s descendants.  Because it is now plumbing.  It is both of those things at the same time.  So, yes, people want to download and people want to do all kinds of other things, but among the greatest downloaders, among the most prolific downloaders, the prolific copiers, are artists.  But more importantly, you know, you look at the things that Aaron [Swartz] has done, you look at the fights that we’ve all gotten into about copyright and so on, and you’ll hear people on the other side say ridiculous things like, “Oh, that’s the ‘information wants to be free’ crowd.”  I’ve never known a single person with a dog in this fight because information wants to be free.  I had a long, compassionate, heart-to-heart with information and it confessed to me that the only thing it wants from any of us is for us to stop anthropomorphizing it.  Because information doesn’t want a damn thing, but people want to be free.  And you make people freer when you don’t add surveillance and censorship to the Internet in the name of stopping copying, which won’t work anyway.  You make people freer when they know what the law is.  You make people freer when they know what science says.  You make people freer when they’re free to congregate, when they’re free to organize together; when the truth of their world, their maps, their geographic data, is available to them freely and without let.  That makes people freer.  Who cares about information?



Rhyme Machine

by Tom Tenney on June 9, 2013

Kid Lucky Beatrhyming

The following article originally appeared in The Villager on May 9, 2013

BY TOM TENNEY | In a 1913 letter to the composer Francesco Balilla Pratella, Italian Futurist Luigi Russolo declared, “The variety of noises is infinite…today we have perhaps a thousand different machines, and can distinguish a thousand different noises, tomorrow, as new machines multiply, we will be able to distinguish ten, twenty, or thirty thousand different noises, not merely in a simply imitative way, but to combine them according to our imagination.” This letter, which became a known as “The Art of Noises,” advocated a new sonic vocabulary through the imitation of machines and became one of the most important manifestos in the history of sound.

As technological advances at the turn of the century paved the way for a revolution in mass media, they also created new possibilities for individual expression. By mid-century, the computer had opened new sonic territory by permitting unprecedented extension of sounds and scales, pushing the boundaries of music beyond what the Futurists ever imagined. In 1983, seventy years after Russolo’s letter, a British avant-garde electronic group that called itself The Art of Noise (after the manifesto) released a song that mixed sampled sounds of car engines and industrial machinery with time-warped drum beats and orchestral stabs. This song would become one of the most influential instrumentals in the world of hip-hop, sampled by artists from X-Clan to Marky Mark. The name of that song was “Beat Box.” A year later, an 18-year-old rapper from Harlem by the name of Doug E. Fresh pioneered the art of imitating electronic drum machines using only his voice — the art of “beatboxing” was born, and the verity of Russolo’s vision was, once again, affirmed. [continue reading this post…]



Radio RMXOn February 24, 2013, RE/Mixed Media Festival launched its monthly 2-hour music/talk free culture radio show – Radio RMX – on BBOX Radio in Brooklyn.  The inaugural broadcast included a 30-minute interview with Paul D. Miller (aka DJ Spooky, That Subliminal Kid) as well as audio remixes, music mashups, and news & discussion on free culture and copyright reform.  The program is hosted by the producers of the annual RE/Mixed Media Festival: Tom Tenney (that’s me), Rob Prichard, and Stephanie Corleto.   Our second broadcast airs tomorrow, March 31st, with special guests ReVerse Bullets, news and discussion, and a special musical focus on ‘surprising samples’ – unique songs and the derivatives that sample them.

The April edition of the show (airing April 28) features special guest, rapper Champagne Jerry (aka performance artist Neal Medlyn).  Check out this recent interview with CJ in Interview Magazine, or peep the video below of him rapping with AdRock at Joe’s Pub earlier this month.

Radio RMX is broadcast every last Sunday of the Month at 1:30 pm on   You can also grab the podcast version from iTunes.



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I was recently lucky enough to be invited to be on the jury at the first annual MAshRome Film Festival in Rome, from June 6-10th.  While there, I was able to see some incredible film and video works that use mashup and remix, and I met some pretty incredible people as well, from Italy and around the world.   The winner in the MashPrime category was a remarkable remix called Retrocognition by Eric Patrick – a professor of film at Northwestern University in Chicago –  which repurposes old radio and tv sitcom soundtracks and mixes them with animation constructed of found images.  The result is a somewhat creepy look at American life and American media.

Below the trailer is the announcement of the winners in the three categorizes – taken from the MAshRome website, including my last minute speech, introducing Retrocognition, that I wrote on my iPhone in a taxi on the way to the awards ceremony.   Here’s the original post, and definitely check out their site at, for more information on this exciting new festival.

MashRome Film FestivalUSA, Germany e Russia Awarded at the first edition of MAshRome Film Fest !

Three Juries for three International Awards.

For MAshPrime, the International Jury, composed by Vladimir Alenikov, Tom Tenney, Andrea Contin and Marco Chiarini, awarded the film “Retrocognition” directed by Eric Patrick (USA)

For MAshNEw Experience, Alessio Bertallot (RaiTunes) at the head of the Jury, awarded the  film “The Week: a Remix In Seven Chapters  “ di Joanna Soyka (Germany).

Finally, for Talented Youth, Luigi Vernieri (IED) at the Head of the Youth Jury, awarded the film “Cabbagemincer” directed by Vadim Viner (Russia).

“‘Retrocognition’ is a film that presents us with an allegorical narrative by mining the archive of American media as its source. Director Eric Patrick used found clips of old radio dramas as the film’s soundtrack and found photos of real people as its visual starting point. The work accomplishes what I feel to be a key objective of mashing up and of remix: i.e. it allows us to look at these artifacts of American culture, bits and pieces that contribute to a global consciousness that is increasingly influenced by American media, in a totally new way. In the process the film also reveals an inherent darkness that exists in the original work.

Another thing I loved about this film is that it not only uses new technology to create what we think of as “remix” – a fairly new word in our vernacular – but it also reminded me quite a bit of the 1956 collage by British artist Richard Hamilton entitled ‘Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing?’ considered by some to be the first work of Pop Art. In this way, the film situates itself not only among the best of contemporary mashups, but owes just as much to the rich tradition of 20th century western art as well. Even the fractured faces seem to pay homage to Picasso and William Burroughs at once. I think this film is a fantastic accomplishment, and I look forward to more work from this talented artist”.

Tom Tenney, Director of Re/Mixed Media Festival – NY (President of the MAshPrime Jury



The Situationist International (1957-1972), or SI, was an intellectual avant-garde collective that used Homo Ludens, a text written in 1938 by the Dutch historian Johan Huizinga, as a key source informing much of their writing and key tenets of their philosophy. In this paper, I will first look at key elements of Huizinga’s theory of play as outlined in his seminal work, followed by the ways that these ideas were absorbed into the Situationists theories and practices. I will examine the ways that ludic principles were appropriated for, and played out in, the Situationist practices of dérive, détournement, situations, and unitary urbanism. I will argue that while the SI rightly believed that a rediscovery of man’s instinct to play could be used to inform revolutionary praxis, the way in which they utilized ludic ideals in practice tended to ignore essential elements of Huizinga’s theory.

[continue reading this post…]



Brooklyn Dérive

by Tom Tenney on April 6, 2012

Psychogeographical MapIt began in Manhattan. I had a window of several hours after I taught my afternoon class on 13th Street, and when it wrapped up I stood on the sidewalk smoking, thinking about my plan, or rather lack of one.  A trip through urban space with no destination.  There was something unsettling about having a plan to NOT have a plan, but I think that in some way is the point.   There’s no doubt that the Situationist idea of dérive was that of a kind of urban play – this is what drew me to it, and to them.  One of my students, Edmund, came out of the building and asked if I could spare a cigarette.  I handed him one, still lost in thought, as he asked, “what are your plans tonight?”

“I have no plan, is the plan,” I said cryptically.  He looked puzzled and I explained the assignment.

I still didn’t know how to approach this.  Dérive is a game, is play, more along the lines of Carse’s theory of Infinite Games than of a structured game with winners, losers and rules.  I was most drawn to the metaphor of the pinball machine, letting a combination of physics and chance bounce and flip me through the city and lead me to corners into which I wouldn’t normally crawl. The idea of being led by aesthetics and architecture seemed contrived, and a recipe for failure… but I needed a protocol.  I remembered that it was one of the few “rules” of the dérive. [continue reading this post…]



64 - A Vaudeville of the Mind posterHey everyone,Just wanted to remind you all that our show, “64: A Vaudeville of the Mind” opens tonight at HERE at 7pm, and runs this Thurs-Sat at 7, with a Saturday matinee at 2pm. Run time is ~75 mins and we do start at 7pm sharp, as there’s another show upstairs that starts right after ours.

64 is a collaboration between producer Robert Prichard, painter Jennilie Brewster, playwright Timothy Braun, soundscapist Tom Tenney, filmmaker Alex Brook Lynn, animator Ashleigh Nankivell and songwriters Ann Enzminger & Nicholas Nace. The result is a multimedia collision of painting, performance, sound, moving images and music.

The event also features performances by: Noel Dineen, Lori McNally, Jeff Dickinson, Susan Young, Jim Melloan, Sean T. Hanratty, and Morgan Everitt.

HERE Arts Center is located at 145 6th Ave at Dominick St (1 block south of spring) right by the Spring St. C/E station. Tix are $15 and can be purchased here: you can make it!